The two big stories of late are Tanaka and prospects talk, so let's head into the convention weekend with a few news and notes...
Jed Hoyer is intrigued by Masahiro Tanaka's youth, noting that you don't often get to pick up a free agent at that age (25), but he was silent otherwise on the Japanese RHP.
Hoyer did talk, however, about spending money,
“I have no doubt we have the money to go out and improve the major league team, and I have no doubt that in the future we’ll be able to go out and make significant commitments and retain our team to make it better,” Hoyer said. “Our focus is on building that foundation that could lead to sustained success.”
Hoyer also chimed in on the Cubs DP combo...
- Barney is working hard with assistant hitting coach Mike Brumley. Said Hoyer, "“What happened at the plate last year can’t happen again." Hoyer, also added that Barney needs to stop trying to hit for power. Hmm...where have we heard that before? In our 2nd base preview, we noted, "You don't need to be a professional hitting coach to know that Barney shouldn't be hitting more fly balls. That seemed to be a general trend with more than a few Cubs hitters last season and while it upped their power totals, there was a price to pay. BABIPs went down and so did the batting averages and BABIP. But it may have had the greatest negative effect on Barney who doesn't have the raw power to survive hitting too many balls in the air."
- Hoyer also reminds us that Starlin Castro showed up to spring training out of shape last year and is working with strength coach Tim Buss to avoid a repeat. Castro did look a little beefy last year and perhaps he can replace some of that soft weight with lean muscle, allowing him to retain his average power and perhaps improve his speed and range in the field.
Tanaka speculation gaining momentum
On the surface this looks pretty timely. The Cubs convention starts today and suddenly the Cubs are right in the thick of all of this Tanaka talk. The latest tweet to get Cubs fan buzzing comes fromm ESPN’s Jason Starks:
“... amazing how many owners in Ariz. were convinced #Cubs are ready to blow away the field & sign Tanaka to a monster deal.”
Similarly I have heard about the Cubs long time serious interest in Tanaka from scouts outside the organization. I first wrote about it in early September. This isn't new to me or the readers here. I've been saying this was the case for quite some time. The fact that Tanaka's deadline coincides closely with the Cubs convention doesn't negate what I've heard from very reliable people for 4 months.
If this is marketing, then the Cubs are getting a lot of help from other owners and scouts. And why would they have any incentive to do that?
- One more note: Joe Ostrowski of The Score tweets that the Cubs are now the favorites in Las Vegas to sign Tanaka. The odds are 3/2. Yankees are next at 2/1 and the Dodgers are at 5/1. The Sox and Mariners are currently at 10/1.
Professor Parks on Cubs Prospects
In other news, Jason Parks had some interesting things to say about a number of Cubs prospects in his chat today.
Here are some excepts...
On Kris Bryant...
The playable power is obviously legit; could play to plus-plus, which means he could hit 35 bombs. But I think the swing and miss will be a bigger issue than some are suggesting, and that could limit some of the power. At the end of the day, I think he's a first-division right fielder with several all-star level seasons on the resume. I expect a lot of power but not a high average.
On whether Kyle Hendricks will be a "guy" (impact pitcher) for the Cubs in the future..
Not really. He will contribute, which is a developmental win. But he's not a top ten talent in their system and his long term future is more of a back-end type at best.
On Javier Baez's ceiling
One front office source told me that thinks Baez has hall of fame potential. No don't go crazy with one projection, but if you really believe in the bat--meaning you think he will reach his offensive projections--35+ home runs is possible, all from a left-side of the diamond home. This is an extreme opinion, but not all that crazy when it comes to potential. Javier Baez could have a very special bat; the hand/eye, the bat speed, the raw strength are elite. If he puts it all together, he could be one of the best players in the game. If he stays healthy and consistent once he achieves that level, the hyperbole and hype of the present won't seem so crazy.
Parks also said that Baez and Byron Buxton have the highest ceilings of any prospect in the game right now.
On Arismendy Alcantara and his power potential
Alcantara was ranked 83 on the BP 101 ( I think). I don't think he's going to be a big power bat at the major league level, but you can't sleep on his pop. Getting to watch his BP behind the cage really turned me on to his raw pop; quick path to the ball but excellent extension through it, which created loud contact. I was impressed with the player. It's been said before, but he really does remind me (and others) of Jose Reyes-light.
On Jorge Soler
Elite raw power, but the utility is unlikely to play that high. Soler struggles with the adjustment game, both during at-bats and during games. Not that he's an easy out; he's not. But he has more tools than skills, and pitchers with a plan of attack can exploit his weaknesses. His slow to adjust approach makes the exploitation that much easier, as the recipe will continue to be effective. I don't question his #want as much as I question his feel for the game.
Parks is also a fan of Paul Blackburn, saying he may take a big step forward. As you all know, Paul Blackburn is my pitching man crush equivalent to Albert Almora among the position players.
And also good to hear Parks is a fan of writer Don DeLillo, of whom I've made a reference or two on this blog in the past.
Arbitration signing day
- The Cubs avoided arbitration with Luis Valbuena and agreed on a one year deal worth 1.71M. I expect the Cubs to come to terms with all their arb players before the deadline with the possible exception of Jeff Samardzija, who is working on a long term deal.
- The Tribune reports that the Cubs have agreed with Nate Schierholtz on a one year $5M deal.
- Joel Sherman reports that the Cubs and James Russell have agreed to a $1.775M deal.
We'll update the signings here as they come.
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